Rimas Tuminas’ staging of Pushkin’s epic poem by the Vakhtangov State Academic Theatre of Russia – currently on a global tour – is full of thrilling imagery. It is a thing of precision, of striking compositions. The back of the vast stage is mirrored and the whole space has been designed, by Adomas Yatsovskis, to resemble a ballet studio. Bodies cluster on one side of the stage while an aging Onegin stands alone on the other, a vast expanse of black between them.
The air is misted, the sense of regret and reflection palpable, as we watch the interplay between Onegin’s older and younger selves. Eugeniya Kregzhde, as the young Tatyana – the woman who falls desperately in love with Onegin and sends him a letter telling him so – is a fizzing, forceful presence. She brims with youth and hope.
The surtitles, flickering high above the stage like a nervous bird, are often too distant to be helpful and the verse translation feels lifeless. But the stage teems with life, the huge ensemble – 45 in all – swept along by Faustus Letanas’s music.
It’s arguably too much at times, it stretches to well over three hours and can occasionally bewilder (there is a strange interlude with a bunny), but within that time there are moments of exquisite poignancy and stillness, as well as some truly magical sequences: the female cast members suspended above the stage on silver swings, a woman waltzing with a great bear, a sudden gusting snowstorm wintering their world.
February 18-21, PN February 18